We come again to the second Sunday in May when we honor and celebrate our mothers. May the Lord bless all those who hold the title of mother in any way; may you have a blessed day! I would like to take the opportunity of this post to honor two mothers who have been special in my life. Let me share a poem about mothers as we honor them today:
Mothers are a special gift sent from God above,
They bless us with their nurturing and fill us with their love.
They pick us up when we are down, and when we're sad they know;
They're always there to lend a hand, and guide us as we go.
And mothers are like special jewels that can't be bought or sold...
A mother's love's more precious than the rarest gem or gold.
Yes, mothers are a special gift sent from God above,
And we'll be blessed forever with their never ending love.
Faye Diane Kilday (1996)
Yes, mothers are a special gift and there have been two such special gifts in my own life. First is Mary Genevieve Hogan Hook - my mother. One of thirteen children (only seven living to adulthood) she was raised on a farm outside of Troy, New York. She attended St. Peter's Catholic Academy from which she graduated in 1921. In 1930, she married my father - Paul Hook - and bore two children - my older brother and myself. The difficulty she had with the pregnancy for me may have been the reason she never had any other children.
My mother was a woman of great faith. I learned my prayers and learned about God at her feet and this began my own faith journey which has been a most important part of my life. She and my father were dedicated to their Catholic faith and were very involved in the life of their parish. From them I learned what it meant to serve and become involved in church life which I have been doing since my youth.
My mother was a "stay-at-home" mom in my early years. That was a time when many women did not enter the work force but were "homemakers" and saw to the upbringing of their children while the husband and father was the breadwinner. During my high school years, however, she had an opportunity to be temporarily employed. Since my mother's brother was a priest in our diocese, she knew many of the clergy. One of them who happened to be the director of the Catholic cemeteries in the diocese asked her if she would come in for a brief time to set some records straight at a local cemetery in Troy. She went and her "temporary" employment lasted twenty-two years! She became such an integral part of the workings of the cemetery that she was able to lay out the graves when the foreman wasn't available. She acquired the nickname of "Cemetery Mary" which she bore proudly.
She was a quiet but fun-loving woman. Rarely did she ever raise her voice to us but we knew what was expected of us when it came to behavior. One of her "weaknesses" was her extreme fear of thunderstorms. This she inherited from her own mother who used to be very fearful when thunderstorms would arise on the farm and would bewail the fact that her men were out in the storm. My mother's fear of storms had some humerous side to it. Once when I was about ten years old, she and I were alone in the house when a strong storm arose. Besides lighting a candle (which she often did) and sprinkling the house with holy water, she decided it would be a good idea to take our minds off the storm. So what did she do? She got down the encyclopedia and read to me about the causes of thunderstorms. Great way to get your mind off it, right?
My mother died thirty-one years ago, a few days after her 78th birthday. My father had suffered a stroke three years before and she was the caregiver. Because she tended to worry a lot she was always afraid something else would happen to my father. I believe this stress led to her suffering a fatal heart attack. I still remember her fondly but know that she is with God and awaiting the time when I will see her again in eternity (my brother had that joy when he passed away eleven years ago).
For those who still have their mothers living and with them I just wanted to share a light-hearted story from the pen of a great story-teller, Father Bill Bausch. It's entitled Famous Mothers and goes like this:
Alexander the Great's mother: How many times do I have to tell you - you can't have everything you want in this world.
Franz Shubert's mother: Take my advice, son. Never start anything you can't finish.
Achille's mother: Stop imagining things. There's nothing wrong with your heel.
Sigmund Freud's mother: Stop pestering me! I've told you a hundred times the stork brought you!
I finally found a Mother's Day card that expressed my feelings for my mother in real terms. It said, Now that we have a mature, adult relationship, there's something I'd like to tell you. You're still the first person I think of when I fall down and go boom!
Thanks, Father Bill.
The second mother in my life is the mother of my children - my best friend. Carol and I met in 1961 and dated off an on over the next year or so. Deciding that she was the person I wanted to spend my life with I proposed marriage and we were married in September of 1963. She has borne me three wonderful children (a fourth pregnancy unfortunately ended in miscarriage). If the way children turn out is any indication of the kind of parents they have had, I have been extremely lucky and I credit my wife and their mother for this.
We have had our share of difficulties as well as blessings in our life together. There was a period of time in the early 1980s when I was unemployed for about five months and Carol was the glue that held the family together during a difficult financial period. Our blessings, of course, have been our great children and our now beautiful grandchildren - Jessica (17) and Julia (3). I believe what has kept our marriage the way it has gone has been our faith. Carol, like my mother Mary, is a woman of great faith. She, too, has been involved in various aspects of church life - from being the director of faith formation in one of our parishes for eleven years to serving as a eucharistic minister. Her support of me in my pursuit of the diaconate was something I can never fully appreciate.
She is also a woman who is quiet and unassuming - but this doesn't mean she doesn't get things done! Her generosity knows no bounds, especially when it comes to the less fortunate. I don't know how many items have come forth from her knitting needles or her sewing machine but I certainly believe it has been in the thousands. She makes items for the homeless and has sent a large number of items to Mississippi to aid people who are less fortunate than we are. My daughter, Christine, just gave her some more yarn as a Mother's Day gift knowing it will be put to good use helping others.
In addition to the items she herself has made, she has been instrumental in beginning three groups of women who come together weekly to knit and crochet items for the needy. This she has done in each of the three parishes where we have been members (and the first two groups are still going strong today!).
The Church may never canonize my mother or my wife but in my heart I know they have been saints living among us. This is why I saulte them today. The author John Killinger in his book Lost in Wonder, Love and Praise has the following statement:
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who was born of the promise to a virgin named Mary. I believe in the love Mary gave her Son, that caused her to follow him in his ministry and stand by his cross as he died.
I believe in the love of all mothers, and its importance in the lives of the children they bear. It is stronger than steel, softer than down, and more resilient than a green sapling on the hillside.
It closes wounds, melts disappointments, and enables the weakest child to stand tall and straight in the fields of adversity. I believe that this, even at its best, is only a shadow of the love of God, a dark relfection of all that we can expect of him, both in this life and the next.
And I believe that one of the most beautiful sights in the world is a mother who lets this greater love flow though her to child, blessing the world with the tenderness of her touch and the tears of her joy.
And I believe that this beautiful sight has taken place both in my mother's and my wife's lives as they have let that great love flow through to their children. May God bless all mothers today and every day as they bring God's love to the world.